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Why Good?

February 1, 2011

Thank you Nietzsche, for creating an argument that is not really an argument, and for confusing the hell out of me. Good starts as powerful in Nietzsche’s first treatise, and then becomes altruistic. Is altruism even an option for people holding power? I personally don’t think it’s even remotely possible for someone in power to be selfless… at least not according to Walzer’s dirty hands existing because the powerful politicians commit sins; not according to Machiavelli’s concept that a good prince should manifest more fear than love, and should “do all harm you must do at one and the same time”(Wootton, 23)  to leave most of it unnoticed; not according to Martin Luther King’s idea that unjust laws created by selfish leaders should be broken; and not according to Socrates’ teaching against the laws that he “so valued”. The fact in itself that, according to Nietzsche: “‘the good’ themselves, that is the noble, powerful, higher-ranking, and high minded who felt and ranked themselves” as good people, is selfish!

According to Nietzsche, The word “good” stemmed from nobility and power from the english philosophers, and transformed to poor, helpless people because of the jews (I wonder if this is why my jewish grandmother continues to pay her cleaning-lady, who now has Alzheimer’s, that she has had for the last 40 years when she lives in her always-spotless house by herself). Does this evolution of what “good” is still exist today? Just think about pop culture, in any aspect really, and it is clearly noticeable that the unfortunate/poor “good” is still relevant. In Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre (I know that this is not exactly current, but we all had to read it for high school english), the noble Mr. Rochester is selfish and in no way represented as a “good” character. It is not until he becomes blind and goes through a difficult situation that he becomes “good” and unselfish and poor and alone. Further, poor Jane struggles through the entire novel because she is such a pure and good person, and then, viola! she inherits a huge sum of money AND lives happily ever after. It’s a recurring theme in movies, novels, and our culture that good things will happen to unfortunate people, as if it’s only fair that way.

Another strange connection about the word “good” is how similar it sounds to the word “God”. I think that the connection between these words also plays a large role in our society, because it personifies our image of who God is. What does he look like? The clear and obvious answer: Morgan Freeman or this guy:who, at the end of the ridiculous movie, Bruce Almighty, turns into Morgan Freeman (God). God is personified as a homeless man throughout that whole movie even though it is not revealed until the end. God=good=poor… The word “good”, in Nietzsche’s german literally translates to “the Godly one” but in reference to power. Why has our image of God transformed into something so opposite, is it that connected to good? Maybe we consider good people as unfortunate people because they must appreciate what they do have, rather than taking it for granted.

Will “good” once again evolve into something else completely different or has the word run its course?

  1. michaelambler permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:39 AM

    You obviously bring up a bunch of interesting ideas, but man, this was one of the snappiest-written and funniest things I’ve seen for quite a while (you also managed to use ideas from at least a dozen philosophers- I have no idea how you pulled that off). Thanks for brightening the pages of the blog.

    I’m particularly interested by your point about the connection of ‘good’ to the opposite of Nietzsche’s definition, or poor/powerless individuals. I wonder how much Christianity, with its founding teacher (Jesus) living a life of comparative poverty and teaching that wealth was corrupting, has to do with the evolution of this cultural understanding? It certainly seems to mirror Buddhist ideas about detachment and divestment of material possessions, which have also had a huge impact on modern culture (though obviously less so in this part of the world).

  2. John D'Adamo permalink
    February 1, 2011 11:00 AM

    I really liked this post for a lot of reasons. Not only was it really funny but it combined the ideas of a lot of philosophers that we studied. Nietzsche from his writings seems a little disjointed and unclear. His definition of good, as you said in your example, bounces around from powerful to altruistic. The movie Bruce Almighty is a reinforcement of what you’re saying. Bruce goes from parting the red sea of tomato soup to actually realizing the true power of God and how he finds favor and cares for those suffering most. It is a realization that modern culture is finding out, and as you pointed out “Maybe we consider good people as unfortunate people because they must appreciate what they do have, rather than taking it for granted.”

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